All of us at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship are grateful for the life and ministry of our colleague, Rev. Howard Vanderwell (1937-2018). After 40 years of service as a congregational pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, he joined our staff team in 2002, participating in ministries of teaching, resource development, mentoring, and writing, until just before his death in 2018.
During his time on our staff, he served
- as an assisting instructor in Calvin Theological Seminary’s core worship course, which included hosting worship leadership skill development lab sessions for groups of seminary students (perhaps 200 individual sessions over 15 years),
- as instructor of several seminary elective courses related to worship and pastoral ministry,
- as seminary chapel worship planning mentor and committee member,
- as a presenter at 50+ national conferences and regional workshops,
- as a member of the Worship Sourcebook development team,
- as author or co-author of several CICW on-line resources, including Bible studies, service outlines, hymnal indices, as well as several Reformed Worship articles,
- as corresponding secretary of the CRC Faith Formation Committee (2007-2012), a synodical study committee organized to address topics related to children at the Lord’s Supper and lifelong Christian formation,
- as mentor and encourager for many individual seminary students and staff members, including several trips with students to various worship conferences, including the St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology, and the Arts,
- and as author or editor for The Church of All Ages: Generations Worshiping Together (2007), Living and Loving Life: Devotional Reflections (2011), Caring Worship: Helping Worship Leaders Provide Pastoral Care (2017), and Letters to Growing Pastors: Reflections on Ministry for Coffee-Cup Conversations (2018).
It is also important to note that his many contributions to worship began already in the decade prior to his participation on our staff:
- as a presenter at Worship Symposium and CRC COLAM (Conference on Liturgy and Music) events,
- as author of Reformed Worship articles,
- as co-editor of “Lift Your Heart to the Lord,” a handbook of materials related to collaborative worship planning, and
- as gracious host for Calvin College’s Lessons and Carols Service (1998-2001), when we offered this service on two consecutive weekends at two locations.
He had also previously authored Preaching that Connects (1989), Now That You are An Elder: A Study in Eldership for Today’s Church Leadership (1990), and Proven Promises (1990), and served on several ministry-related boards, often as president, including the annual denominational Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.
Throughout this work, he was a compelling advocate for several key themes:
- the importance of intergenerational faith formation opportunities, including intergenerational worship,
- the value of collaborative worship planning and evaluation,
- the importance of strong church council leadership, with a pastoral leader who intentionally cultivates the leadership capacities of other office-bearers,
- the importance for pastors to set aside time for disciplined preparation and prayer for worship services they will lead, including their thoughtful preparation of spoken transitions and introductions, in ways that focused worshipers on Christ and ministered to the often unspoken pastoral needs in a congregation,
- the role that elders and congregational members play in supporting strong preaching, and the proactive role that pastors should take in seeking the wisdom and insight of congregational members related to preaching,
- the importance of preaching and worship leadership as an expression of pastoral care and congregational leadership,
- the value of having the church’s confessions be living documents, informing congregational worship, discipleship, and leadership, and
- the pastoral significance of funeral services, which provide space for honest lament and a compelling witness to the resurrection of the body, grounded in the gospel of Jesus and the hope we have because of Christ’s resurrection.
We are deeply grateful to God for all the gifts that the Holy Spirit granted to us through Howard Vanderwell. We are grateful for all the ways that he planted and watered the seeds of the gospel, always in the conviction that it is God who gives the growth.
Last Updated: 03/26/2018